Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH. review

The SL 50mm Summilux is a dream to use, but you need big muscles to use it every day, and a big checkbook to secure it!

Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH
(Image: © Future)

Digital Camera World Verdict

While I'm a lover of the 50mm focal length and use it a lot in my own work the sheer size and weight of the Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f1.4 ASPH. could put a lot of people off, but if you are willing to carry the weight and build up the muscles, you're going to have one of the best mirrorless lenses in your camera bag - and it will all be worth it! However, while it produces images that are as sharp as a razor, you can't ignore the sheer size when compared to other SL prime lenses and its font heaviness when paired up with a Leica SL body without a battery grip - the saying "no pain, no gain" comes to mind as you will clearly notice this camera and lens combo hanging off your neck, but if you're willing to take the load for your art, you have a winning combination that you can use for any situation.

Pros

  • +

    Outstanding build quality

  • +

    Image quality out of this world

Cons

  • -

    Extremely heavy

  • -

    Lager than all Sl Primes

  • -

    Very expensive

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The Leica Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH is probably the heaviest prime lens within the SL range, when laying my eyes on this amazing lens my first thought was, why is that so big and heavy for a 50mm? - especially when you compare it to the compact and perfectly balanced Lecia APO Summicron-SL 28mm f/2 ASPH. 

Specs

Mount: Leica L-mount
Lens design:  11 Elements in 9 Groups
Maximum aperture: f/1.4
Minimum aperture: f/22
Angle of view:  47.9°
Minimum focusing distance: 1.97' / 60 cm
Maximum reproduction ratio:  0.1x
Filter size:  82 mm
Dimensions: 3.46 x 4.88" / 88 x 124 mm
Weight:  2.34 lb / 1065 g

This really did take me by surprise, it weighs in at an astonishing 2.34 lb / 1065g, and the price is even bigger... a wallet-whipping $6,595 / £5,200, and whatever you do, don't lose the lens hood else that will be a $199 replacement!

But as you really do get what you pay for in photography, the construction of this lens is second to none that truly gives off that luxury feel Leica products achieve every time. 

It features a fast t f/1.4 aperture and can be stopped down to f/22. With a minimum focus distance of 1.97' / 60 cm, this 50mm for the SL-System can certainly be used to cover many photography genres such as street, reportage, portraits, and even landscapes - But does this lens live up to the legendary 50mm hype? - scroll down to find out.

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH. Build and Handling

The Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH. is the top of the line Prime lens in the SL line and as you would expect it feels phenomenal in the hands, it's built with only the finest materials and is the principal of lens design that lives up to its German engineering, it's no wonder this lens has a cult-like following for its ability to capture images of the best quality and tonality that is desired and respected by photographers from all over the world - Even Leica uses the slogan "More than light alone" for this lens giving it a goldy status, and you know what, despite its hefty weight, top-heavy balance and massive circumference - I simply couldn't put this lens down! 

(Image credit: Future)

Once you have got over the size and weight of this tremendous lens you begin to look at its amazing construction. Its optical design contains a total of 11 elements, these consist of two aspherical elements, and a further four are made from glass with anomalous partial dispersion for correction of chromatic aberrations. This complex optical construction reduces all monochromatic and chromatic aberrations to a minimum.

This lens also features an advanced multilayer coating on all lens surfaces with optimum design of the lens tubes to produce smooth focus throughout the focus range, while Leica expresses that the rectangular lens hood provided with this lens significantly reduces reflections and stray light, I shot all the sample images within this review without it and saw no aberrations when pixel-peeping.

Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH Performance

I love shooting with a 50mm, in fact, 50mm is the main focal length I shoot everything with, and this SL 50mm slotted right into place, shot wide-open at f/1.4 you get that look... "the Leica look" that everyone raves about with sharp subjects and dreamy-smooth bokeh.

Stopped done to f/4 or f/4 you will really see how well this lens performs in any lighting situation, every image I took either outside or even in my house on a cold miserable day were really sharp and produced images with a lot of depth, and 3D pop that only can be produced by such a lens from Leica.

(Image credit: Future)

The only grumble I can really make on the Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 is that this lens weighs an absolute ton - which I have said a few times in this review. I find it very hard to believe that 2.34lb or 1065g was the lightest Leica could have made this lens, and while the images are outstanding when compared to the compact 28mm SL APO, the 50mm APO-Summicron SL f/2 looks very tempting - While I am not knocking the lens on its ability to take stunning photos at whatever you point it at, I personally could see myself walking around with this lens on Leica SL2 or Leica SL2-S all day long without a battery grip attached - and even then on short journeys.

(Image credit: Future)

While I agree this is one of best Leica SL lenses ever produced the weight is simply a hindrance rather than a help on this occasion. However, when you have the camera to your eye and you ignore the weight you notice just how fat this lens is to focus - both in autofocus and using it manually - in AF-C mode on the Leica SL2-S it was extremely fast to focus, while this is mostly down to the SL2-Ss tracking system - every image I took across this review was sharp and it never disappointed.

Obviously, this lens is able to shoot wide open at f/1.4 which lets in a tremendous amount of light and makes shooting in the most dimly-lit surroundings a total walk in the park - perfect for those who like to shoot images in all locations and at all times of the day, even at night. Overall I'd say this lens produces some of the best images with rich tonalites and high clarity I have seen in a mirrorless system and I am sure anyone who buys one will not be disappointed, plus every time you use it you won't need to go to the gym that day.

(Image credit: Future)

Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH lab results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)

Center and mid-frame sharpness are outstanding, even wide open at f/1.4. By contrast, corner sharpness is a little disappointing, especially at larger apertures. We'd expect better for a quality lens of this focal length.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)

Fringing is kept to a minimum right across the frame, at all apertures. You shouldn't notice any aberrations in everyday shooting.

Distortion: -0.56

There's a touch of barrel distortion, but it should go unnoticed when shooting most subjects.

Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f/1.4 ASPH. Verdict

While I'm a lover of the 50mm focal length and use it a lot in my own work the sheer size and weight of the Leica 50mm Summilux-SL f1.4 ASPH. could put a lot of people off, but if you are willing to carry the weight and build up the muscles, you're going to have one of the best mirrorless lenses in your camera bag - and it will all be worth it!

However, while it produces images that are as sharp as a razor, you can't ignore the sheer size when compared to other SL Primes lenses and its font heaviness when paired up with a Leica SL body without a battery grip - the saying "no pain, no gain" comes to mind as you will clearly notice this camera and lens combo hanging off your neck, but if you're willing to take the load for your art, you have a winning combination that you can use for any situation.

(Image credit: Future)

If you enjoyed this, you might also like our best Leica SL lenses guide, you might also be interested in our top picks for the best Leica cameras.

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Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science, and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is a member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected into BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in street, medium, and large format photography with products by Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. Sebastian has also used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between. He now spends his spare time using his trusted Leica M-E or Leica M2 shooting Street photography or general life as he sees it, usually in Black and White.